TNG: S4E02: “Family”

In which the future and the past continue their epic knock-down fight in the mud and then finish a couple of bottles of wine together. 

"But moooooooooooooom..."

“But moooooooooooooom…”

The Enterprise has docked at McKinley station for refit after having been severely pounded in the aft by the Borg. They’re getting their phasers upgraded, everyone is getting shore leave and family visits, including Worf’s parents. As is typical, Worf’s expectations about Klingon culture are conflicting with human expectations, and he’s a little embarassed that they want to visit him.

Picard is also taking a vacation, to Labarre, France, where he grew up and which he hasn’t seen for two decades. Troi decides to grill him a bit because he’s made an interesting choice in going home rather than anywhere else, in light of his recent trauma. The last shot of the teaser is particularly good. In the context of a modern TV show where writers are allowed to kill main characters, Picard’s last look around his quarters as he shoulders his luggage es exactly the kind of look you’d get if someone knew they were never coming back. We all know that Picard will remain captain of the Enterprise until they pry him out with an appropriately futuristic crowbar, but in this moment you can truly believe that he doesn’t.

This is a refit dock.


This is a refit dock, McKinley Station. You’ll not that its arms are articulated so they can fold around a starship and hold it in a maintained orbit while the engines are shut down, in case major repairs are needed. There’s a habitation dome where the techs likely live, or at least beam into. Perhaps most amusingly, neither this screenshot nor any of the renders or models I found indicate that there’s any direct physical connection between ship and station. That the ship is held in place with tractor beams I can believe, but it’s also telling that all transfer of staff between the two structures must be done by shuttle or transporter, rather than airlock. One final consideration: What is the advantage of this design over Earth Spacedock, the enclosed hangar the size of a city? Perhaps ESD is full after the Borg attack?

Worf’s parents come aboard and immediately pull the Eastern European Parents thing. You know what I’m talking about. Also, Sergei Roz

Rozhenko and O’Brien have a delightful little conversation that includes the gem for Sergei: “Don’t call me sir, I used to work for a living.” The joke relies on a class divide between enlisted and commissioned personnel, and also on some form of economy, and still makes O’Brien chuckle.

On his way home, Picard meets his nephew René, who has all the precocious bluntness of a prepubescent child and also an English accent like his uncle. They all have English accents. Some legacy of World War III no doubt. There’s a subtle tension building up between Picard and his brother Robert. Robert and his wife Marie and their son René all live on a vinyard, which Robert has kept in the family as their father wanted. Meanwhile, Picard has become a Starfleet captain, not been home in 20 years, and now René also wants to join Starfleet. We can guess how pleased Robert is going to be to see Jean-Luc.

I have no idea how to spell the sound I hear in my head when I see this face, but I think it has four Us and six Gs.

I have no idea how to spell the sound I hear in my head when I see this face, but I think it has four Us and six Gs.

On their first meeting, they seem polite enough, but you can tell that’s going to last approximately until the first drink, and Robert goes back to trying to fix his grapes on this tiny vinyard in the middle of a modern village of the time. If we hadn’t already decided to wonder about how and why a small-batch vinyard exists in the 24th century – who gets the wine, what incentive is there to labor long hours in the fields, and so on – this shot invites us to do so.

Beverly has also received the effects that once belonged to Jack Crusher – his old uniform, the gag gift that he proposed to her with, and a tape Jack made for Wesley once Wes was born.

Sergei and Helena Rozhenko have been going around telling embarassing stories about how Worf, as a seven-year-old, beat the crap out of half a dozen teenagers who had picked on him. This appears to be mainly an excuse to get a moment alone with Geordi to discuss something delicate.

Robert is fairly polite but taking pot-shots at Jean-Luc – synthehol has ruined his palate for wine, replicators are making cooking a lost art. It seems that having their own replicator is something they could easily do (recall from “The Survivors” that they’re about the size of a washing machine) but Robert won’t hear of it. He thinks life is too convenient, and doesn’t like that René is showing so many similarities to Picard, particularly in the wake of a 40-strong fleet being massacred just a week or so earlier, and takes out the big guns.

Dichotomies. Robert just wants to tend his grapes and leave the business to his son. Jean-Luc is excited about the project to raise the seabed and create a new continent on Earth. In fact, that nobody seems concerned about what a brand new landmass is going to do to the weather patterns strongly implies they do now have global weather control. That can’t be much more difficult than raising a seabed in the first place. Picard’s experience solving the problem of the week have given him the kind of expertise that this project could use, and it even looks like he might be persuaded to take over the project, even though he won’t admit it.

In a series of short vignettes, Sergei and Helena have their talk with Guinan, where they can describe how they managed to raise a Klingon child and she reassures them about their choices. After some agonizing, Beverly gives Wesley his birthday message, and Worf admits that he’s glad his parents came, and they all hug it out over his dicommendation.

Being primarily a diplomat rather than a cowboy, Picard does not know the technique for Kirk's double-fisted hammer blow that kills Klingons but leaves buildings standing.

Being primarily a diplomat rather than a cowboy, Picard does not know the technique for Kirk’s double-fisted hammer blow that kills Klingons but leaves buildings standing.

Robert keeps needling Jean-Luc – about real wine putting him out of control, about the Borg taking him down a peg, fifty or sixty years of pent-up jealousy all coming out at once and provokes a fistfight. They beat the crap out of each other for a while, trash some grape vines and eventually collapse into cathartic laughter and, for Jean-Luc, the breakdown he really, really needed. That he can’t run away from his experiences by leaving the Enterprise is something he really needed.

Jack Crusher’s last message was a holodeck program for Wes, although a very simple one. An apology for the mistakes he might make as a father, and for being gone so long, and veiled allusions to the realities that accompany Starfleet service.

2 thoughts on “TNG: S4E02: “Family”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S7E22: “Bloodlines”

  2. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S7E14: “Sub Rosa”

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